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The Shadow Hero

Friday, October 17th, 2014


Title: The Shadow Hero
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Illustrator:  Sonny Liew
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: July 15, 2014

In 1944, Chu Hing became one of the first Asian Americans to work in the American comic book industry. He created a World War II superhero named the Green Turtle, whose face was never shown and whose origin is shrouded in rumor. Decades later, Gene Luen Yang has given an origin story to what is believed to be the first Chinese superhero.

Enter Hank. He’s a pretty average nineteen-year-old. He helps his parents run their Chinatown grocery store and he aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps as store owner. When Hank’s mom gets the notion that he should become a superhero his arguments about not possessing any powers don’t dissuade her (and lead to a few run-ins with toxic chemicals).

While the original Green Turtle never did find an audience, this re-imagining is a great addition to the superhero ranks! Sonny Liew’s illustrations are wholly captivating and beautifully drawn and Gene Luen Yang’s story is humorous and engaging in true superhero fashion.

Thinking of using this book for the classroom or a book club? Be sure to check out First Second’s discussion guide.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Title: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdika

Author: Jim Ottavlani

Illustrator: Maris Wicks

Publisher: First Second

Publication Date: June 11, 2013

This graphic novel follows the true story of three female scientists who risked their lives for research that changed the way we think about primates. While Jane Goodall is the name that comes to most people’s minds when they think of scientists working with primates, she wasn’t the only scientist of her time working with them. This non-fiction story is broken down into three parts. Part one starts when Jane is a young girl telling her mother she wants to live with wild animals when she grows up. Teenage Jane finds herself in an animal-less job at a documentary film company, but a meeting with Dr. Louis Leakey, the curator of the Coryndon Museum in Nairobi, changes her life and sets her down the path that will lead her to become one of the most influential primatologists of all time. Part Two and Part Three document Dian Fossey’s work with gorillas and Birute Galdiks’ work with orangutans respectively after their own meetings with Louis Leaky. Part Four shows the three women’s paths crossing and how influential each of them were to their field. 

Primates is a great text for both English and science classes. Multiple points of view make close reading a necessity and the different parts evaluate the different methods that each scientist brought to the field. The illustrations are highly engaging and amusing. This book is a great introduction to primatology and conservation. Perfect to use in conjunction with evolution units or to show students that it’s ok to make mistakes and think outside the box!

Examples of common core standards this book can be used to help fulfill:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3 Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.3 Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).

Teacher’s guide created by First Second can be found here.

Friends with Boys

Saturday, December 7th, 2013


Title: Friends with Boys
Author: Faith Erin Hicks
Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second

After years of homeschooling, it’s Maggie’s first day of high school. Her mother (and teacher) has mysteriously left the family, leaving Maggie’s three brothers and father to help her through the transition. It’s anything but easy. Public school has new rules and new people who already seem to have high school life all figured out. Even with her brothers walking the same halls, Maggie finds it difficult to navigate her way through her new environment. Being haunted by a ghost from the local graveyard isn’t helping anything.

Friends with Boys is a fast paced story about transitioning from homeschooling to public school, but it’s a story that most everyone will be able to relate to. It speaks strongly to the struggle of trying to figure out not only who you are, but who you want to be. Faith Erin Hick’s characters and energetic illustrations are immediately engaging, drawing the reader into Maggie’s family dynamic. It’s a true coming of age story with a paranormal twist. As if life isn’t complicated enough!